In short, you have to try and work out which horse is open to the most improvement, given that outside the favourite they look a closely matched bunch. No horse impressed me more physically last year than Massaat and word has reached me that the son of Teofilo has been working the house down. The handful of runners that Owen Burrows has sent out so far have all acquitted themselves pretty creditably and although it takes a leap of the imagination to see Air Force Blue beaten, this is not quite as big a leap as some.
The ground is clearly going to be a key factor in the race and any ease brings plenty into play that might otherwise have been at a disadvantage, including Galileo Gold, Marcel and Stormy Antartic. I suspect rain will play heavily against the chances of Buratino but he is certainly worth keeping an eye on for later in the season, as is the Ballydoyle second string, Air Vice Marshal, who had an enormous reputation before finishing second in the Superlative Stakes last year.
The rest of the Newmarket card looks incredibly tough, but high in quality. The traditional opener, the Suffolk Stakes, features a clutch of lightly raced horses from top yards that are sure to take a huge chunk out of the market.
Intimation (2.00, Newmarket), trained by Sir Michael Stoute, looked really good when winning a handicap at Leicester last summer and she is arguably the most exciting prospect in the race. She’s got a beautiful pedigree and the fact that they are willing to run her in another handicap before attempting to pick up valuable Black Type suggests to me that connections think she is well treated off a mark of 90.
The Palace House Stakes looks a mighty tough puzzle to solve but what we do know is that there will be a ton of blazing speed and it could, unusually for the Rowley Mile, set up for a horse coming from off the pace. As such, I’m going to go for Waady (2.30 Newmarket) who is unbeaten at five furlongs. His only three defeats have come when trying further and John Gosden’s speedball remains relatively unexposed. If I’m allowed, I will have to save on Justineo given the possibility that sprint maestro Robert Cowell can ginger him up to former glories.
At Goodwood, I’m quite keen to back Pamona (2.15) who went winless last year for Luca Cumani, in what was a rather disappointing campaign. However, her form earlier in the year, particularly behind Crystal Zvezda at Newbury and Curvy at Ascot, puts her in here with a big chance. She has handled slowish ground extremely well in the past and at 10-1 she looks a very appealing each-way play against market leader Miss Marjurie.
Later on the Goodwood card, Normal Equilibrium (3.25) makes a fair bit of appeal to follow up his recent Epsom success. If not quite back to his best last time, he at least showed he could boss horses for speed on this type of ground and on this type of track and Jamie Spencer is undoubtedly a positive jockey booking.